Most people go to Jazz Fest for the music. I go to Jazz Fest for the food, and there is no food I enjoy on the fairground of Jazz Fest more than an oyster po-boy. “What’s the big deal?” ask those who are less obsessed by food. “A po-boy is just a sandwich, right?” Well, not exactly. If it’s just a sandwich then it should be possible to find a well-executed po-boy anywhere in the world. The truth is the probability of finding a good oyster po-boy diminishes the further away you get from New Orleans. Even in the Big Easy, you find many mediocre po-boys but few great ones.
“You’ve got to get the bread,” said Will Horowitz, chef of the East Village’s Ducks Eatery, who put in years cooking in New Orleans. Will told me about Cheeky Sandwiches—a quaintly shabby looking shop near Manhattan’s Chinatown. The oyster po-boy at Cheeky’s is made with bread shipped from John Gendusa Bakery in New Orleans—the very bakery that created the bread for the first po-boys made during the Great Depression streetcar strike.
A proper po-boy loaf is more airy than a plain old hero, with bigger air pockets and is just slightly crusty. In between the fluffy loaf, find an abundance of perfectly fried plump oysters with just the right amount of crunchy breading. Cheeky’s serves its po-boys “fully dressed” with lettuce, tomatoes, pickle, mayo and hot sauce. At $8.50 per sandwich, they’re saving me a bundle in airfares to New Orleans.
Cheeky Sandwiches, 35 Orchard St., 646-504-8132
Ya-Roo Yang is a New York City-based freelance food writer. She lives in the East Village with her partner and their corgi.